If you haven't seen the movie "The Dark Knight," you should do yourself a great service and see it. I'm not spoiling it by stating an incredible pearl of wisdom offered by The Joker, who was convincingly portrayed by the now-late Heath Ledger: "If you're good at something, never do it for free."
I could not promote this idea any more than the way more than 160 musicians and artists are coming together as a call to reform. U2, Pearl Jam, Jack White, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor, and others are calling on Congress to modify the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They argue "sensible reform that balances the interests of creators with the interests of the companies who exploit their music for financial enrichment" is direly needed. If that Legalese was a little confusing, it's simply stating they want to be properly compensated rather than shorted by companies that use their music without their expressed written permission.
"As songwriters and artists who are a vital contributing force to the U.S. and to American exports around the world, we are writing to express our concern about the ability of the next generation of creators to earn a living," the petition said. "The existing laws threaten the continued viability of songwriters and recording artists to survive from the creation of music. Aspiring creators shouldn't have to decide between making music and making a living. Please protect them."
The petition adds that the DMCA "has allowed major tech companies to grow and generate huge profits by creating ease of use for consumers to carry almost every recorded song in history in their pocket via a smartphone, while songwriters' and artists' earnings continue to diminish." (c/o Rolling Stone)
We live in a digital and social media revolution where the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Tumblr, Snapchat, YouTube, and others are some of the most effective ways to connect with millions of people around the world. I agree with the Nine Inch Nails frontman and Apple Music's chief creative officer in Reznor when he speaks of the unfair model that YouTube has in stealing music. It's not an indictment on the company itself for stealing music, per se, but it's more a testament that they either have zero sense of a model to monitor the possible stolen material, or they completely ignore most of what is posted on their website unless they're threatened with a lawsuit by artists, musicians and/or others.
Songwriters and performers are not necessarily of equal value in today's market. However, that's not to dissuade someone from legally purchasing music, whether in vinyl, CD, or digital form. Many people love to have shortcuts. I'm of the age where I grew up during the Napster phenomenon and I admit I took part in it and some of the applications that sprouted from the success and demise of Napster. Illegally downloading and streaming music has gotten out of control over the years and I think it's time for people to legally obtain music and have companies appropriately compensate these artists for their hard work.
It is insanely easy for people to simply find some sort of easy song or album download just by searching for it via Google, Bing or Yahoo. Torrents have become a thing of the past, but they still are quite popular for movies, television shows and music albums as well. What's to stop networks like HBO, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and other broadcasting entities to go after the likes of YouTube and others that are illegally streaming their work? Perhaps this petition that artists are signing and vehemently promoting others to sign will be an omen for the rest of the entertainment industries around the world.
Let's take a step back and look at it from our own point of view, outside the public eye. If you were to create something, whether it be art, a website, a mid-level compression service and cloud storage platform, or a cooking recipe, wouldn't you deserve to get paid for it? Absolutely. If you were see your product being sold online or in stores other than an operation being conducted by you or those you trust, why wouldn't you seek a profit? I applaud these artists for going after what should rightfully be theirs and the likes of YouTube SHOULD be forthright and take down any "unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of copyrighted work." Will that happen at any point and time in the foreseeable future? I don't think so, but it's great to see many well-deserving artists and musicians taking appropriate action.